SEMIFINALISTS

Speller No. 1, Kevin Lazenby
Adventure Travel, Birmingham, Alabama
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Opelika Middle School
Hometown: Opelika, Alabama

Kevin loves to travel and wants to go to every state in the U.S. He is well on his way to meeting that goal, having already been to 35 states. Last year he went on his church's annual mission trip to Mexico, and he plans to return this year. Kevin enjoys reading, spelling and collecting quarters. After school, he is involved in band and piano lessons. Kevin is a member of the district honor band and the Auburn University Honor Band. He participates in baseball, tennis, swimming. Kevin also competes in triathlons and cross-country, and he qualified for the IronKids National Triathlon Championships in 2010 and 2011. He is an honor roll student, and he would like to become a doctor like his parents. Kevin participated in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 5, Sumaita Mulk
Arizona Educational Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy
Hometown: Goodyear, Arizona

Sumaita enjoys watching movies and television, listening to music and hanging out with friends. She likes to read, especially the Hunger Games trilogy of books. Sumaita earned a record 500 points in the accelerated reading program in fourth grade. She is a gifted student who excels in science and speaks Bengali. Math is also one of her strong suits — Sumaita placed second in the 2011 Lockheed Martin MATHCOUNTS competition. She plays piano and tennis and participates in moot court at school. Sumaita would like to pursue a career in dermatology.

Speller No. 11, Apolonia Gardner
Imperial Valley Press, El Centro, California
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Frank Wright Middle School
Hometown: Imperial, California

Apolonia participates in Kung Fu, where she holds a green belt and has learned sword and staff routines. She is band president and plays flute, piano, French horn, saxophone and cello. After school, Apolonia is also involved in a traveling volleyball club and enjoys swimming, running and bowling. She is an altar server at church. Apolonia was captain of the seventh grade history and math teams, was the seventh grade “Student of the Year” and is a member of the honor society. She hopes to become a rocket scientist. Apolonia participated in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 19, Snigdha Nandipati
U-T San Diego, San Diego, California
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Francis Parker School
Hometown: San Diego, California

Snigdha enjoys reading random facts in encyclopedias, particularly those topics pertaining to science or history. In her spare time, she also likes to read whodunits and adventures, and she collects unique coins from around the world. Snigdha competes in Science Olympiad and has earned several medals. She and her teammates will be attending the California state competition this year. At school, Snigdha participates in math club, MATHCOUNTS, Math Field Day and other math-related events. She attends the San Diego Math Circle each week. Snigdha is an executive member of the school Yearbook Club and she plays violin. She is fluent in Telugu. Snigdha participated in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee, tying for 27th place.

Speller No. 20, Siddharth Kulkarni
San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, California
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Chaboya Middle School
Hometown: San Jose, California

Siddharth is interested in journalism and writing, and he is an aspiring author. He writes poetry and short stories. Siddharth takes journalism classes and has submitted articles to The Evergreen Times. He won the teen poetry contest at the local library in 2011 and had another poem accepted into the district level of the Reflections contest in 2012. Some of his favorite books include J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers, and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Siddharth likes to travel and loves to learn about history, science and the world. Favorite historical topics include ancient Egypt, Greco-Roman mythology, medieval Europe, and the Italian Renaissance.

Speller No. 25, Jennifer Mong
The Telegram, St. John's, Newfoundland,, Canada
Age 12, 8th grade
School: Macdonald Drive Junior High
Hometown: St. John's, Newfoundland

Jenn excels as a musician and artist. She plays violin and piano and is a member of the school jazz band and the youth orchestra in her province. Jenn likes to draw and do crafts. With her friend Claudia, she has started a small business called Kawaii Pandora that sells handmade hair accessories and phone cases. In Jenn’s spare time, she likes to read and write. She participates in dance, doing ballet, pointe, exam ballet, exam tap, tap and jazz. Jenn is also in karate and holds a yellow belt with one stripe. She volunteers at the SPCA and wants to be a veterinarian. 

Speller No. 27, Mignon Tsai
The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, British Columbia,, Canada
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Chief Dan George Middle School
Hometown: Abbotsford, British Columbia

Mignon enjoys playing badminton and volleyball, her favorite sport. She won a volleyball award in sixth grade. In her spare time, Mignon likes spelling, reading and collecting stones. Her sister Grace, who participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2008, helps Mignon study her spelling words in preparation for the Bee. A fan of classical music, Mignon likes listening to Beethoven. At school, she excels in science and hopes to pursue a career as a scientist. She speaks French and Mandarin. This is Mignon’s first trip to Washington, D.C.

Speller No. 30, Frank Cahill
The Denver Post, Denver, Colorado
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Ave Maria Catholic School
Hometown: Parker, Colorado

Frank’s best school subject is math, and he was a Colorado state finalist in the MATHCOUNTS National Competition in 2011 and 2012.  He is also musically inclined, playing violin in the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra, as well as piano. Frank participates in theatre and has played the lead roles in Dracula and Oliver Twist. He is a defenseman on the Parker Hawks Lacrosse team and a member of the varsity basketball team at his school. Frank is a 4.0 honor roll student, John Francis Regis Scholar and a Boy Scout. In his spare time he likes sculpting and reading.

Speller No. 31, Rahul Malayappan
Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Danbury, Connecticut
Age 12, 8th grade
School: Broadview Middle School
Hometown: Danbury, Connecticut

Rahul likes to play baseball, and his favorite athlete is Alex Rodriguez. Rahul participates in MATHCOUNTS at school as the team captain, and he is the regional History Bee champion. He loves to write and has earned several writing awards. Rahul speaks English, Tamil and some Hindi, and he is learning to speak French. He is a violinist who began playing when he was three years old using the Suzuki method. Rahul enjoys classical music, likes to play chess, video games, draw and read. His favorite book and movie is Jurassic Park. Rahul hopes to become a neurosurgeon. Rahul participated in the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee, placing 33rd in 2010. 

Speller No. 40, Grace Remmer
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Home School
Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida

A budding orchestral musician, Grace plays violin and viola. She is a member of the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra in addition to playing in a Chamber Music group. Grace was honored as concertmaster twice in her youth symphony and was named principal second violinist for her Fall 2011 youth symphony. She enjoys knitting and reading, and she's a dedicated fan of author Jules Verne. Grace has read seven of Verne’s books so far, but her favorite is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Grace participated in the 2010 and 2011  Scripps National Spelling Bees, placing 9th in 2010 and 14th in 2011.  

Speller No. 42, Vaidya Govindarajan
The Miami Herald, Miami, Florida
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Herbert A. Ammons Middle School
Hometown: Miami, Florida

Vaidya is fascinated with science and medicine. He participates in science club at school, is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and has earned a perfect GPA. Vaidya is an accomplished piano and guitar player, and he also enjoys swimming. In his free time he likes to read, play Wii and other video games, watch television and play with friends. He attends classes for Hindu religious studies and is fluent in Tamil. Vaidya participated in the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee, tying for 9th place. 

Speller No. 43, Christal Schermeister
The Miami Herald, Miami, Florida
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Hearts Homeschool Group
Hometown: Pembroke Pines, Florida

In her spare time Christal participates in ballet, and she enjoys bicycling and creative activities. A vegetarian, Christal is involved in many activities at her church, and she is a fan of contemporary Christian music. Christal excels in science and loves the Star Wars movies. At home, Christal has a Bichon Frise named Barney, a spaniel mix named Bonita and a cat named Tigger. This is her first trip to Washington, D.C.

Speller No. 44, Stuti Mishra
Orlando Sentinel, Orlando, Florida
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy
Hometown: West Melbourne, Florida

Stuti likes to read, write and draw. She is interested in computer art and design, and she is currently learning computer programming. Stuti also likes to swim. She enjoys learning languages like French, and she can speak Hindi and Oriya. At school, Stuti is a member of National Junior Honor Society and Math Bowl. She received state recognition for the Duke Talent Identification Program and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. Stuti likes to spend time with her family, especially playing and dancing with her sister. Stuti tied for 19th place in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee. 

Speller No. 49, Rachael Cundey
The Augusta Chronicle, Augusta, Georgia
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Lakeside Middle School
Hometown: Evans, Georgia

Rachael plays flute in the school band and is also in the District Honor Band. She is on her school's math and academic bowl teams. Rachael received the Principal’s Award last school year after receiving the highest average in all academic subjects. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books like Anne of Green Gables and studying Latin. Rachael’s best school subject is math, and she would like to become a cardiologist. Rachael participated in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bees.

Speller No. 50, Simola Nayak
Georgia Association of Educators, Tucker, Georgia
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Henderson Middle School
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Simola likes music and plays both clarinet and saxophone. For the past two years, she has been selected to play in the District Honor Band. Simola is able to remember the tune of songs after hearing them only once, and her favorite musical artists are The Beatles, Adele, Coldplay and Sting. Simola is a member of her school’s Reading Bowl Club and Honors Club. Her Reading Bowl club has won several awards at county and regional competitions. Simola enjoys spending time reading fiction books, news magazines and newspapers. Stargazing is another interest and, combined with digital photography, it has become the basis for many of Simola’s science fair projects.

Speller No. 58, Simon Ricci
Chicago Spelling Bee Collaborative, Chicago, Illinois
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Latin School of Chicago
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Simon can run a mile in five minutes and 47 seconds. He was selected “Most Valuable Player” on the cross-country team at school and is the OLV Boys Varsity Cross-Country champion. Simon also participates in volleyball and plays piano and oboe. He enjoys reading and skiing, and he can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes. Simon excels in math at school, and participates in MATHCOUNTS and Math Olympiad where he is a four-time school champion. He has won 20 Science Olympiad medals. Simon studies Chinese because China is an emerging world power and because his younger sister was adopted from there. Simon participated in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 60, Marlene Santora
Commonwealth Edison, Chicago, Illinois
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Komarek School
Hometown: North Riverside, Illinois

Marlene is a member of a community youth orchestra, where she plays the violin. She also participates in gymnastics and track and field. In Marlene’s spare time she likes doing origami, drawing cartoons, solving the Rubik’s Cube and listening to music. Always up for an adventure, she has tried (unsuccessfully) to teach herself to ride a unicycle, and she was once a passenger on a runaway hot air balloon which eventually crashed into a house. She speaks fluent Ubbi Dubbi. Marlene participated in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 66, Pranav Sivakumar
Lake County Regional Office of Education, Grayslake, Illinois
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Barrington Middle School — Station Campus
Hometown: Tower Lakes, Illinois

Pranav’s hobbies include astronomy, geography, reading and chess. He also enjoys playing classical and jazz piano repertoire, and he is a member of the school jazz band. Pranav is captain of the school Scholastic Bowl team, which finished second in the Middle School National Championship Tournament and third in the Illinois state tournament this year. Pranav finished second in the school National Geographic Bee and helped the school Certamen team qualify for the state finals this year. Pranav excels in science and aspires to be an astrophysicist. His recent research on asteroid family classification was selected for the Illinois Junior Academy of Science state science fair. Pranav participated in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee, tying for 27th place. 

Speller No. 79, Gina Solomito
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis , Indianapolis, Indiana
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Home School
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

Gina participates in gymnastics and swim team, and other hobbies include photography and doodling. Gina’s favorite books are from The Hunger Games series, and her favorite movies include those from the Harry Potter series, as well as Warrior and You Again. At school, Gina is studying Latin, and she wishes to be a history teacher or a field/marine biologist. Her role model is Amy Purdy, who lost both of her legs to bacterial meningitis, yet still became the best adaptive female snowboarder in the world. Gina participated in the 2008, 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bees, tying for 27th place in 2011. 

Speller No. 89, Gifton Wright
Jamaica Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Kingston College
Hometown: Spanish Town, Jamaica

Gifton likes participating in competitions, and he enjoys singing and dancing. In his spare time he participates in track and field and football, and he plays checkers and computer games. At school, Gifton is deputy head boy, is on the Quiz team, and participates in the Chess and Math clubs. He excels in math and earned the highest math grade in his school. Gifton is learning to speak French, and he really likes to spell. He hopes to become a doctor someday. This is Gifton’s first trip to Washington, D.C., and he’s really looking forward to it.

Speller No. 92, Vanya Shivashankar
The Olathe News, Olathe, Kansas
Age 10, 5th grade
School: Regency Place Elementary School
Hometown: Olathe, Kansas

A piano player since the age of five, Vanya also plays a tuba nearly as big as she is. Vanya is passionate about singing, dancing and acting, in addition to outdoor pursuits such as swimming and biking. Vanya welcomes academic challenges and aspires to have a career in the medical field, perhaps as a cardiac surgeon. The family has a yellow Labrador retriever, appropriately named Champ. Vanya participated in the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and her sister Kavya was the 2009 national champion. 

Speller No. 93, Emma Steimle
The Topeka Capital-Journal, Topeka, Kansas
Age 14, 8th grade
School: West Middle School
Hometown: Lawrence, Kansas

Emma participates in drama, chorale and band. Some of her other interests include playing soccer, drawing, cooking and photography. In fact, Emma would like a career as a photographer. Her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland, and her favorite movie is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Emma is an honor roll student, and she likes alternative and pop music. She collects rubber ducks and small glass bottles. Emma has three sisters whom she looks to as role models, and the family has a dog named Piper. This is Emma’s first trip to Washington, D.C.

Speller No. 94, Emily Keaton
Kentucky Spelling Bee Collaborative, Louisville, Kentucky
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Christ Central School
Hometown: Pikeville, Kentucky

Emily has been playing piano since she was four, and she now has an after-school job teaching piano. She is the forward on her school’s basketball team, captain of the school academic team and president of the student council. She enjoys spending time organizing bake sales, school dances and alumni basketball games. Emily likes to sing, run in a track group, work out and spend time outside. She can also be found texting, reading and talking to friends. Emily has been a state competitor at the Kentucky Governor’s Cup Academic Competition and was named an official Kentucky Colonel by Governor Steve Beshear. She participated in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bees, tying for 36th place in 2011. 

Speller No. 105, Jack Nolan
Howard County Library, Columbia, Maryland
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Mayfield Woods Middle School
Hometown: Elkridge, Maryland

Jack has always been good at math and attends a gifted and talented accelerated math program. He is a two-time Math Olympiad winner. In the future, Jack would like to put that knowledge to work as a computer programmer for NASA. He has traveled to Ecuador, Chile and Canada, and he has participated in the Maryland National Geographic Bee. Some of Jack’s interests include reading, online comics, manga and anime. He plays piano and cello, and he's in a book club and film club. Jack has a dog named Storm and two cats, Cassie and Leo. Jack participated in the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 113, Amber Born
The Daily Item, Lynn, Massachusetts
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Home School
Hometown: Marblehead, Massachusetts

Amber plays keyboard in a Beatles tribute band, but she is also a fan of Adele’s music. Amber enjoys reading, and she hopes to be a writer someday. Her favorite books are the Mysterious Benedict Society series, the Harry Potter series and To Kill a Mockingbird. Her favorite comic strips are Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts. Amber likes watching sitcoms on television, especially Frasier and Seinfeld. She enjoys soccer, chess and fencing. Some of the other extracurricular activities Amber participates in include swimming, tennis, band and mime. Amber participated in the 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bees.

Speller No. 127, Kavyapranati Pratapa
Willow Run Community Schools, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Age 12, 7th grade
School: South Arbor Charter Academy
Hometown: Ypsilanti, Michigan

Apart from participating in spelling bees, Kavyapranati enjoys reading fiction and classical literature. She plays Western violin in her school orchestra and plays flute in the school band. Kavya also is learning Indian classical music and won second place in an Indian music competition conducted by Telugu Association of North America (TANA) held in Detroit. She enjoys participating in dramas and helps with service activities for seniors. She is a recipient of the 2011 President’s Award for Educational Excellence. Kavya participated in the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 130, Antony Joseph
South Central Service Cooperative, North Mankato, Minnesota
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Fairmont Junior/Senior High School
Hometown: Fairmont , Minnesota

Antony likes reading, especially the Hunger Games series. After school he is involved in basketball, soccer, tennis, orchestra and band. Of the sports Antony plays, soccer is his favorite, but he would most like to meet retired NBA player and all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Antony is a pop music fan who enjoys the music of Michael Jackson. His best school subject is science, his role model is Albert Einstein, and he aspires to become a mechanical engineer. Antony also has a sense of humor – he is a big fan of jokes. Antony participated in the 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bees.

Speller No. 131, Roshini Asirvatham
Southeast Service Cooperative , Rochester, Minnesota
Age 12, 8th grade
School: Friedell Middle School
Hometown: Rochester, Minnesota

In 2011, Roshini won a gold medal at the state science fair, and she was a finalist at the Broadcom MASTERS science fair. She was honored as the fifth place winner at National History Day for a documentary on the debate on the nature of light. Roshini hopes to turn that knowledge into a future career as an electrophysiologist. When she is not at school, Roshini enjoys reading, writing, playing piano and violin, and participating in Indian classical dance. Roshini participated in the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 136, Jordan Hoffman
Jackson County Spelling Bee Collaborative, Kansas City, Missouri
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Pleasant Lea Middle School
Hometown: Lee's Summit, Missouri

Jordan takes piano and voice lessons, and she composes music and lyrics in her free time. This past fall, she wrote an a cappella choral composition, which the Lee’s Summit Youth Chorale performed throughout the year. Jordan is a member of that chorale, along with the eighth grade Black and Gold Honors Choir at school. Jordan and several friends are currently planning a benefit concert to raise funds for a family member's medical expenses. Jordan also mentors seventh graders, takes advanced studies coursework and acts in the school Awards Assembly theater program. One of her favorite hobbies is reading and writing poetry and stories. Jordan participated in the 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bees.

Speller No. 141, Gokul Venkatachalam
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri
Age 11, 5th grade
School: Claymont Elementary School
Hometown: Chesterfield, Missouri

Gokul likes to read and play basketball. His favorite book is The Hunger Games, and he enjoys the Harry Potter movies. Gokul is involved in extracurricular activities like swimming, playing cello in the school orchestra and participating in the Math Olympiad program. He actively follows sports teams like basketball, football and baseball. He would most like to meet St. Louis Cardinal baseball player David Freese, whose persistence helped the Cardinals clinch the 2011 World Series title. In school, Gokul excels at math and would like to become a scientist.

Speller No. 145, Emma Ciereszynski
New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester, New Hampshire
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Dover Middle School
Hometown: Dover, New Hampshire

Emma enjoys writing, drawing and reading. She was reading proficiently at age two, and today her favorite novel is House of Leaves. Emma likes to listen to many genres of music and loves to play her piano and trumpet. She is in the school concert and jazz bands, and she plays classical piano. Emma rides horses competitively in the discipline of Hunter-Jumper. She is also a member of the school drama club. Emma is a Girl Scout who has earned the Bronze Award. She and her troop often volunteer at a local soup kitchen. She has two Dalmatians, Dottie and Buddy. Emma is a high honor roll student and wants to be a neurosurgeon.

Speller No. 148, Sanjana Malla
The Record and Herald News, Hackensack, New Jersey
Age 11, 6th grade
School: Haverstraw Middle School
Hometown: Haverstraw, New York

Sanjana likes to read, especially the Percy Jackson series, and she would like to meet author Rick Riordan. In her free time, Sanjana enjoys playing violin and piano, drawing and doing puzzles. She also likes to ski, ice skate, bike and swim. Sanjana is learning kuchipudi, an Indian classical dance. In 2010, she was one of the 2,850 participants in the “Largest Kuchipudi Dance,” as recorded in the Guinness World Records book. At school Sanjana is a student government representative, and she participates in Math Olympiad and Odyssey of the Mind. She is also involved in math, science and technology club. She likes participating in her Hindu religion classes, chanting slokas and speaking Telugu.

Speller No. 155, Nabeel Rahman
The Buffalo News, Buffalo, New York
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Casey Middle School
Hometown: Buffalo, New York

Nabeel enjoys playing sports and spending time with friends. He is on his school soccer and track teams and participates in his town’s basketball and travel soccer teams. Nabeel plays viola in the school orchestra and is secretary of his school’s student activities committee. He is also a member of Rachel’s Challenge, a group whose goal is to stop bullying. Nabeel is an honor roll student and placed first in the middle school National Geographic Bee. He enjoys travel and other cultures and aspires to be a physician like his parents. Nabeel participated in the 2010 and 2011  Scripps National Spelling Bees, tying for 10th place in 2011.

Speller No. 156, Sruti Akula
The Leader, Corning, New York
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Alternate School of Math and Science
Hometown: Horseheads, New York

Sruti is into crafts, especially jewelry making. In her spare time she likes to kayak and dance, and she is a talented musician who plays oboe and piano. Sruti recently represented the region in the state’s MATHCOUNTS competition. She was also an honorary award winner at the New York State Archives Student Research Awards program. Sruti speaks Telugu, French and Spanish, and her best school subject is math. She loves her mom’s cooking, and aspires to be a cardiologist like her dad. Sruti participated in the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 162, Arvind Mahankali
Daily News, New York, New York
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Junior High School 74 Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hometown: Bayside Hills, New York

Arvind excels in math and science, and he can sing “The Elements” song by Tom Lehrer. He would like to become a physicist like his role model, Albert Einstein. In both 2009 and 2012, Arvind received an award for high honors from the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University. Outside of school, Arvind participates in tennis, basketball, drama and Indian classical music. He speaks Telugu and Spanish, and he enjoys reading. Arvind’s favorite book is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Arvind participated in the 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bees, tying for 9th place in 2010 and 3rd place in 2011. 

Speller No. 184, Ty Korsmo
North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, Bismarck, North Dakota
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Greater Grand Forks Home School Association
Hometown: Northwood, North Dakota

Ty participates in Tae Kwon Do and 4-H, and he was the 4-H North Dakota state champion in Outdoor Skills Display. He has also received 4-H public speaking and demonstration awards. Ty enjoys spending time with his family and wants to be a missionary when he grows up. He is involved in his church youth group and sponsors a child in Haiti whom he would love to meet. Ty’s hobbies include LEGOs, reading, playing the Wii, camping and biking. Ty can say the alphabet backwards in four seconds. This is his first trip to Washington, D.C.

Speller No. 185, Sunny Levine
Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Claggett Middle School
Hometown: Medina, Ohio

At school Sunny excels in science and is a member of her school’s Science Olympiad team. She is also a performer – she enjoys singing, doing magic tricks and being in shows. Sunny is a member of the school drama club and recently played the Cheshire Cat in the musical Alice in Wonderland Jr. She is a skilled balloon twister, budding magician and entrepreneur who can make over 500 balloon sculptures. She and a friend formed the “Wicked Twisters,” a balloon art and magic business. Sunny participated in the 2010 and 2011  Scripps National Spelling Bees, tying for 36th place in 2011.

Speller No. 193, Nicholas Rushlow
Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, Lancaster, Ohio
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Lakeview Junior High School
Hometown: Pickerington, Ohio

Nicholas is a year-round competitive swimmer, and his favorite events are the 500-meter freestyle and 50-meter backstroke. Last summer, Nicholas placed third in the 50-meter backstroke at the Tri-County Championships, and he was on the 200-meter freestyle relay team that took first place. Nicholas is also an avid LEGO collector. He likes to use his spelling skills playing Scrabble, and he’s good at chess. This year, Nicholas has started playing ping-pong in a school club. He has played violin for nine years and is a member of the Suzuki Music Columbus Tour Group. Nicholas participated in the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bees, tying for 17th place in 2009, 33rd place in 2010 and 14th place in 2011.  

Speller No. 198, Dharani Kotekal
The Herald-Star, Steubenville, Ohio
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Indian Creek Junior High
Hometown: Wintersville, Ohio

One of Dharani’s interests is learning new languages; she can read and write Kannada, Hindi and German. She plays alto saxophone in band and received a first rating in a solo and ensemble contest. Dharani was selected to participate in the first Ohio State University Honor Band. She is the president of student council, a National Junior Honor Society member, and a member of Media Club, Young Women’s Club and Students Against Destructive Decisions. Dharani is a vegetarian and PETA member whose favorite animals are cats and owls. She loves to garden, paint, ride her bike and spell. Dharani is also interested in astronomy and space. Dharani participated in the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 201, Vishnu Nistala
The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio
Age 12, 8th grade
School: Mentor Shore Middle School
Hometown: Mentor, Ohio

Vishnu is passionate about aviation engineering. He spends most of his free time drawing, designing and modeling airplanes. He draws his designs by freehand or uses 3D modeling and then uploads his creations to YouTube. Vishnu is also obsessed with flying and would love to try it someday. For now, he uses his Microsoft Flight Simulator to experience it. Vishnu enjoys fine art and music, and has won honors for his art and writing at the county and state level. He follows almost every sport — especially football — and he plays baseball during the summer. 

Speller No. 202, Max Lee
The Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Canfield Village Middle School
Hometown: Canfield, Ohio

Max enjoys playing piano and participating in competitions. He is a classical music and Chopin fan. Max also likes to read in his spare time; the Harry Potter series is a favorite. Tennis is Max’s favorite sport to watch and play, and Rafael Nadel is one of his favorite athletes. He also would love to meet NBA player Jeremy Lin, whom he sees as a good role model. Max excels in math and took fourth place in the regional MATHCOUNTS competition. He would like to have a career in ophthalmology. This is Max’s first trip to Washington, D.C.

Speller No. 204, Noah Cassidy
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Stillwater Christian Home Educators
Hometown: Perkins, Oklahoma

Noah is currently writing a series of novels, and he has been competing in spelling bees since kindergarten. In his free time, Noah hunts and makes stop-motion animations. Noah is involved with his church, and he likes to play basketball, football and soccer with his friends and brothers. It’s no surprise that spelling is his favorite subject at school. Noah is following in his footsteps of brother Caleb and sister Hannah, who have also competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in years past. Noah has a dog named Paideia and a cat named Fuhi. 

Speller No. 213, Lena Greenberg
The Philadelphia Tribune, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Home School
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Lena enjoys foreign languages and other cultures, especially from the far north or Spain. She is very interested in politics and current events, and each day visits the BBC, CNN and Spanish-language websites to scan the latest news. A published author, Lena is the former executive editor of YALDAH, a national magazine for Jewish girls, as well as the layout editor for her synagogue’s 16-20 page monthly newsletter. Lena has written articles for the children’s magazines Stone Soup, Cricket, New Moon Girls and Creative Kids. She volunteers at Friendship Circle, an organization for Jewish kids with special needs. Lena participated in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 237, Chetan Reddy
The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas
Age 12, 7th grade
School: C.M. Rice Middle School
Hometown: Plano, Texas

Chetan is involved in MATHCOUNTS, Whiz Quiz, cricket and recreational basketball. His role model is NBA player Dirk Nowitzki because of his talent, discipline and loyalty. Chetan enjoys reading, especially the Hunger Games series of books; he also liked the movie. Other interests include music, sports and board games like Scrabble. At school, Chetan excels in math and hopes for a career in economics. He is able to name all 50 U.S. States in alphabetical order in less than a minute. Chetan participated in the 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bees, tying for 27th place in 2011.

Speller No. 238, Abigail Spitzer
El Paso Times, El Paso, Texas
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Southwest Homeschool Network
Hometown: El Paso, Texas

An aspiring author, Abigail likes to read many genres, especially the classics. She is fascinated with Tudor history and would love to meet author J.K. Rowling to talk about how she got the idea for her beloved Harry Potter series. Abigail likes to swim, jump on the trampoline with her five sisters and ride her bike. She also enjoys playing games on her Nintendo DSi. Abigail likes to perform – she sings in the church youth choir, takes piano lessons and is involved in drama. She also participates in Little Flowers, a Catholic scouting group. Abigail participated in the 2010 and 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bees.

Speller No. 239, Mark De Los Santos
Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Holy Rosary Catholic School
Hometown: Arlington, Texas

Mark describes himself as social, yet serious, and he has many interests, including medicine, physics and history. He likes to read nonfiction books, sing, play guitar, collect coins and stamps, and write short stories and poems. Mark is involved in the National Junior Honor Society, choir and the Private Schools Interscholastic Association. He has earned the Star rank in Boy Scouts. Mark has won several Knights of Columbus awards, the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence from 2008-2011 and has participated in the Duke Talent Identification Program. He would like a career in neuroscience. Mark participated in the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 241, Sivateja Tangirala
HoustonPBS, Houston, Texas
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Fort Settlement Middle School
Hometown: Sugar Land, Texas

Sivateja enjoys playing violin and practices Indian classical music. After school, he participates in orchestra and plays basketball. Sivateja is an avid reader and also excels in math and science. He qualified for the Texas State Math and Science Coaches Association competition in 2011. He also qualified for the regional You Be the Chemist competition. Sivateja participated in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 244, Thomas Rubio
Midland Reporter-Telegram, Midland, Texas
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Alamo Junior High School
Hometown: Midland, Texas

Thomas’ favorite sports are basketball and tennis, which he plays in his spare time and also as extracurricular activities. His favorite athletes are NFL player Tim Tebow, NBA players Tim Duncan and Jeremy Lin, and Josh Hamilton from the Texas Rangers. Thomas plays violin in the school orchestra, and he also plays guitar and piano. He has a dog named Handel. Thomas excels in math and would like to pursue a career in medicine. Thomas participated in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and his sister Danielle participated in 2006. 

Speller No. 254, Vismaya Kharkar
The Valley Journals, Salt Lake City, Utah
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Challenger School
Hometown: Bountiful, Utah

Vismaya loves to travel, and she has visited six countries on three continents. Her first language is Marathi, and she participates in Indian classical dance. In her spare time, Vismaya likes to read, participate in artistic activities, listen to music, shop, swim or hang out with friends. She takes classes in Kenpo karate and won second place in a tournament. Vismaya is in honors choir and is a pianist. She won a Superior cup for the last six years at the Piano Federation’s duet and solo competitions. She has been a three-time participant in the National Geographic Bee at the state level, and she hopes to become an oncologist and author. Vismaya participated in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 264, Jae Canetti
Fairfax County Times, Reston, Virginia
Age 10, 4th grade
School: Hunters Woods Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia

Jae loves Beyblades and currently has a collection of 48. In his spare time, he also likes to play video games and read many kinds of books. Jae enjoys photography, a hobby he shares with his dad. He also likes listening to music and making up tunes. Jae plays saxophone, clarinet and piano. He is in his fifth year of Little League baseball; he plays all positions, but mostly pitches and catches. Jae’s teams have won the district championship twice. He enjoys going to minor league baseball games with his dad. Jae is a Davidson Institute Young Scholar. His fourth grade class voted him “most compassionate student,” and Jae loves all animals, especially cats, dogs, birds and gerbils. 


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